Written by Scott Austin
Note that the information in this blog post is intended for the Okanagan region
Fall provides an excellent opportunity to renew and revitalize tired lawns. If you’re planting a new lawn or need to put some seed onto your existing lawn now is the time to undertake this project. The soil has been absorbing heat all summer so it’s as warm as it has been all season. Seed germination will be good and the individual plants will establish well before the weather turns really cold, plus it’s easier to keep the soil moist in fall with the cooler air temperatures.
If you’re seeding ground under or near large trees buy grass seed specifically for shady areas. These contain more fine fescues, which are well adapted to dry shade conditions. Be sure to gently remove any leaves that fall on the seed to allow the maximum amount of sunlight to penetrate.
Fertilizing the lawn in fall is important for a few reasons. You’ll no doubt have noticed that lawns which looked very stressed in summer started growing again in September. An application of a fall and winter fertilizer will give it a shot of nitrogen to fuel that growth and also provide valuable potash, which helps to strengthen individual cells within the grass plants so they are better able to withstand the cold winter.
Fall is the best time to aerate a lawn, even better than spring. There are a host of reasons why aeration is good for the lawn. It opens up the soil to oxygen to encourage better root growth and increased soil microbe activity. This is particularly important when your lawn is growing on compacted soils. Leave the cores on the lawn to break down slowly over the fall. Aerating also helps to break up the thatch layer of dead and decaying grass plants that often builds up in lawns.
Aerating is the first step in the fall trifecta of lawn renovation. After you’ve completed this project topdress the lawn with a light layer of topsoil, peat soil or a similar product. Sweep the soil into the lawn with a broom or use the back side of a rake to help it to settle down to the root level. Finally apply grass seed and fertilizer and water in. You (and your neighbours!) will be impressed at how much better your lawn looks next spring.